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Playing for a life without limits — Stories from the Field

This Story from the Field comes from Amandla in South Africa where Anelani passes the lessons he learned from his mother to young people — giving them the support systems they need to achieve their dreams.

I believe that everybody should be able to realise their potential.

I believe that everybody should have access to the support that I did when growing up and, through football, I have the opportunity to be a part of that.

As a senior leader or football coach, you are immediately a role model within the community. To me, that is a huge privilege and one that I will use to pass on the lessons I learned both through the game and my mum (my role model!). To both, I owe so much.

My name is Anelani Bungane and I’m 27 years old. I live in South Africa — a country so diverse and so exciting. I’m so proud to be from a place with so many different cultures.

From Xhosa, to Zulu, to Afrikaan and Sotho, there are many different things that can influence who you are and what you will become. You cannot control where, or to whom you are born and, without support, it is very difficult at a young age to understand what can be positive or negative choices.

Though, growing up, my dad wasn’t around and it was just me and my mum, I had everything I needed. Life was so exciting with her. Sometimes she was a mum, sometimes a coach, a friend, everything in one.

She always made sure I had everything I needed, bridging the gap between mother and father and everything in between. Not once did you ever hear me say ‘I miss my dad’ or ‘I wish my dad was here’. In her, every need I had was always fulfilled.

By the time I was 12 years old, she was already sick.

We were living in Johannesburg but we had to move back to the Eastern Cape. and she continued to work while I was studying, but things quickly got worse.

I’ll never forget the day she died. I was at the field with my team. Somebody called my coach to tell him the news but before telling me he first told the players. Practice ended and the whole team put me in a taxi and took me home. I said, “Coach, what’s going on, why are you all coming with me?”

Usually, I went home alone after football, as most of the other players were living in towns. I was the only one living outside. He said, “We just want to see where you live.” I got home and there were so many people there. I asked my coach again what’s going on.

He told me: “Your mum is gone. That’s why we’re here.”

They didn’t want me to be alone that night. They gave me support when I needed it. They were by my side at the funeral and I will always be grateful for the amazing support they showed me. To show such care and love proved to me the meaning of a team. Having each other’s backs.

My mum brought me into this world not to be afraid and to be whatever I wanted. She encouraged me to do everything, whether it was studying, after-school activities, or football.

Picture by: Alexandre Orscheit

“Don’t limit yourself,” she told me again and again. “Don’t limit yourself. Go and conquer the world!” I’ll always remember that. It’s so funny, my colleagues say to me: “Anelani, you are such a mummy’s boy,” because whenever I have the chance to talk about her, I always say, “I am what I am because of my mum.”

What she taught me, I want to pass on to the kids who come through the door at Amandla. The opportunity to help kids who are not receiving the right amount of attention at home is such a big incentive.

There is often a lacking of parenthood, a lacking of fatherhood in their lives. There is no-one at home asking them: “How was school?” or “How was your day?” I was lucky in that respect. No matter how late she got home from work, my mum would come to me and say: “Hey boy, how was school, did you finish your homework, can I help you with anything, did you brush your teeth?”

When kids come into the Safe-Hub in Khayelitsha, they find out very quickly, through the senior leaders and myself as a Fair Play Manager, they have people that really care about them and want to help, people who care about their dreams and want to motivate them in whatever it is that they want.

We work with children coming from all different types of backgrounds. Being able to help them realise their potential, and understand their world and to share your own, is really amazing.

Many people in South Africa believe that education should be the thing that motivates their children. But, even now, I can’t imagine studying hard every single day without the hope that later I could go to the field and play. I tell my colleagues, what we do here, is amazing, and that piece of paper with a statement on at the end of the month doesn’t matter.

The work we do, the job itself, is incentive enough.

People ask me: “Why are you always smiling? Is this smile real?” and I just have to laugh. I’m telling you, it’s real! I know there will be ups and downs, the most important thing is to keep a positive attitude.

The one message I want the kids I coach to take from me, is the belief that they can be what they want to be. If you have the belief, or even the thought that you can do something, then you can. Don’t limit yourself.

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Playing for a life without limits — Stories from the Field was originally published in Common Goal on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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